Sifting Through the Ashes:

Analyzing Hellblazer, Part 2

Issue #3 “Going for It”
Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: John Ridgeway
Colors: Lovern Kindzierski
Letters: Annie Halfacree

Of all the issues of Hellblazer written by Jamie Delano, fewer are more politically charged than “Going For It,” for it depicts a staunch observation of the state of the United Kingdom under the regime of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Reigning from 1979 to 1990, Margaret Thatcher is the only woman to date to hold the premiership of Britain, and is one of the most famous, or infamous, people to be elected to the position. A philosophical soul mate to Ronald Reagan, and nicknamed “The Iron Lady” by the Soviet Union, Thatcher’s 11 year regime was known for its vast effects on the British economy, high unemployment, and social unrest. Criticized for promoting greed and selfishness, Thatcher was also seen as an “enemy” by some British feminists, and enacted policy on homosexuality that would later be apologized for by Prime Minister David Cameron. The effects of Thatcherism, as it would later be called, would be felt long after she resigned from office in 1990.

The opening of “Going For It” is similar to that of “Hunger” with the huffing and puffing of a track-suited yuppie, lamenting over his growing misfortunes. Yuppies, a term that has long fallen out of common use, is short for “young urban professional.” Victor Davis Hanson describes yuppies as,

“Self-absorbed young professionals, earning good pay, enjoying the cultural attractions of sophisticated urban life and thought, and generally out of touch with, indeed antithetical to, most of the challenges and concerns of a far less well-off and more parochial Middle America. For the yuppie male a well-paying job in law, finance, academia or consulting in a cultural hub, hip fashion, cool appearance, studied poise, elite education, proper recreation and fitness and general proximity to liberal-thinking elites, especially of the more rarefied sort in the arts, are the mark of a real man.” [1]

Over the decades the pejorative has been replaced by others within the lexicon, the current one being “hipster,” which, while sharing some similarities, denote vastly different individuals overall. Greeted by two other yuppies of Mammon Investments, the two run with the introductory character, the frames of the panels denoting his ever increasing heartbeat. He then has a heart attack and dies, with a poster for the upcoming election for the Prime Ministry on the wall beside his corpse.

We return to Constantine walking the streets of Camden, on the way to visit his gay friend Ray to take his mind off the election while observing the impoverished urbane sprawl surrounding him. Constantine comments,“I’m not here to write social comment documentaries,” but this is exactly what Jamie Delano is doing with a brief comment on how 30% of children were living under the poverty line by the time Thatcher resigned in 1990. After speaking with Ray, Constantine is put on the trail of the dead yuppie while also shedding light on the opposition homosexuals faced during the time. Thatcher’s moral absolutism lead to the passing of Section 28, stating that local government’s “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality [or] promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”[2] This would later be repealed by the Scottish Parliament in 2000 and in 2003 for the rest of Britain.

The demon Blathoxi, an immense corpulent demon dressed in Victorian finery who resides in the financial district of Hell, consorts with young upstart demons who urge risky investment opportunities in Hell’s soul market. Blathoxi’s style of dress and gruff demeanor fits the image of a miserly 19th century banker while his underlings fit the image of cut-throat board room executives. The buying, selling and trading of souls like a stock exchange (harkening to the ‘80s political climate of monetarism and drawing parallels to via soul-brokering demon yuppies) relates to the selfishness that Thatcherism promoted and mirrors what critics of Thatcher referred to as “casino capitalism,” that is the mindset of speculation and financial trading being more important to the British economy than industry. Hell can’t make new souls so instead it has to reap the most of what it can get ahold of. As the demons return to Earth, Constantine tails them from their home to a trendy wine bar, even though he feels his skin crawl whenever he gets close to them. Again Constantine demonstrates his tenacity to pursue conflict, despite being prone to getting in over his head.

Fleeing from the bar, Constantine attempts to summon their boss, Blathoxi, only to speak with his lickspittle because of Constantine’s no frills ritual (which was found rather insulting). This breaking of demonic conduct shows stylistic similarities between Constantine and the demonic yuppies. Each pursue their own machinations and only bow to their elder’s formalities when they absolutely have to. Constantine eventually meets with the demon and proceeds to trick him into thinking that the conservative Torys are going to lose the election and will cause a crash in the soul market. Unfortunately, Constantine is captured by the demon-yuppies to use as a plaything while they watch election coverage. After it is revealed that Thatcher is set to be reelected for a third term, Blathoxi, who is now ruined thanks to insider trading and a bottomed out infernal dollar, damns the young upstarts and drowns them in ticker tape. The Market Crash mirrors the real world Black Monday of October 19th, 1987 which resulted in a massive loss worldwide during the month of October. Although this issue takes place 4 months earlier (June 1987), the publication date of the issue was not until March 1988, making it entirely possible that Jamie Delano was writing the issue during the crash. Not wanting to lose face that he has been tricked by Constantine, Blathoxi leaves him suspended from the ceiling to watch election coverage, with John commenting that there is more than one road to Hell, lamenting another 4 years of Thatcherism.

Given that Hellblazer ran for 25 years, and dealt with ever changing political and social climate of the world, it is entirely possible that the subtext of the stories in each issue can become lost or overlooked by younger readers, considering that they were either not born during the time of publishing, or were politically unaware at the time. However some matters have had such a drastic effect on society that pop culture has referenced or parodied them to the point in which the subtext is readily accessible to the reader and can spark interest to find out more about history when obscurities arise. Through a tale of trickery and guile filled with ‘80s pastiches, Delano is able to clearly comment on the state of England in the 1980s, a time in which inspired many of the artistic works that emerged from the country at this time, as restriction breeds creativity.

To be continued.

Notes:

[1] Victor Davis Hanson (August 13, 2010). “Obama: Fighting the Yuppie Factor”. National Review.

[2] “Local Government Act 1988” http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/9/contents

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Max Nestorowich is a Michigan Technological University graduate with a degree in Chemical Engineering. To keep his sanity in the perpetual winter of Houghton, in his free time he dove head first into exploring all that comics had to offer, which worked to a certain extent. He eventually started writing about them at every opportunity, settling on a blog at some point. When not reading, watching, or writing something, Max can be found in the Analytical Chemistry Lab in which he finds employment, doing science.

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1 Comment

  1. I definitely appreciate the historical context you’ve laid out for the issue above. I was reading this story arc last winter and definitely experienced a blind spot in my UK history (being American as my excuse).

    The first article in this series featured too much plot summary for my preference, but the exploration of the political climate while Delano was writing is interesting.

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